Wild Goose Jack, Part 2

Jack Miner, holding several waterfowl. Photo courtesy of the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation, Kingsville, Ontario

Part two in a series on Westlake native Jack Miner.

Jack Miner was an eminent naturalist, conservationist and humanitarian who in 1904 established a bird sanctuary on the north shore of Lake Erie at Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. In his autobiography, “Wild Goose Jack,” Miner writes that it was Dover Ditch and Cahoon Creek which were where he played and began educating himself in the things that would later make him world famous. He loved Dover as his hometown until he died in 1944.

According to “You’ve Come a Long Way, Westlake…” by William Robishaw, when Jack Miner died, he was the fifth-best known man on the North American continent, determined by a poll of United States newspapers. The poll ranked only Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh and Eddie Rickenbacker as more well known.

Jack was born in 1865 near Dover Center in what eventually became the geographic center of the city of Westlake. In his autobiography he noted that he had fiery red hair, and “at least, one thousand more freckles than you ever saw on a turkey egg – freckles on my face and neck, freckles on my hands; yes, and even my bare feet were covered with freckles.” He had a temper as fiery as his red hair and when other boys teased him, he responded with his fists. He was both very sensitive and not afraid to fight. He grew up to become a very kind-hearted “man’s man.”

The taunting as a boy though resulted in his only attending three months of school during an era when school attendance was not mandatory. At age 11, Jack worked alongside his father in the family brick yard and spent his free time with his older brother trapping small animals to supplement the family’s diet and meager income with the sales of the pelts. When he was 13, he moved with his parents and 10 siblings to Kingsville, Ontario, Canada, where his father established another brick yard in a swampy, racially segregated, poor part of town.

In his autobiography Jack tells the story that shortly before they moved he and his brother ventured north along Cahoon Creek toward Lake Erie. They passed through an area of oak and hickory trees that was a resting place for enormous flocks of native passenger pigeons. By his description, it was probably somewhere between where today's Langale Road is in Westlake and West Oviatt Road is in Bay Village. He never forgot the sight of so many birds roosting on the branches that the large branches broke from the trees. Years later, what struck him hard was that by 1914, the passenger pigeon was extinct!

After moving to Canada he continued working for his father, as well as hunting and trapping, and in 1888, at age 23, Jack married a young Canadian woman, and they eventually had a family of four boys and a girl. It was in 1900 that he first realized that the world must initiate some sort of conservation program, to prevent the depletion of natural resources, particularly animal life. One of his first efforts of such conservation was to help form a Game Protection Association, one of the first in Canada.

In 1904, Jack founded a bird sanctuary on the family’s 100-acre Kingsville property, utilizing the empty pits that had supplied the clay for the family brick-making, now filled with water. That year he captured four Canada Geese, clipped their wings to use them as decoys to attract more. As hard as it is to believe today, Canada Geese were facing extinction and he was determined to help them.

It took four years, but eventually other wild geese landed nearby; then in 1909, 32 landed and in 1910, 350. He started planting trees and shrubs at the sanctuary.

As early as 1906 Jack was recognized by a large Minneapolis newspaper as the “founder of the Conservation movement.”

William Krause

William R. Krause, AICP I am the Assistant Planning Director for the City of Westlake. I have worked for Westlake for 29 years. I served on the Bay Village Planning Commission for 5 years. I was a member of the Reuben Osborn Learning Center Steering Committee. I am a Board Member and Historian for the Westlake Historical Society and a Trustee of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians. I have been married to Debra for 37 years and am the father of three grown children, grandfather of two and owner of two Shih Tzu's.

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Volume 10, Issue 19, Posted 9:50 AM, 10.02.2018